For gallerist and art collector Peter Ibsen visits to museums in his childhood were mostly connected with boredom. “At Louisiana you could get rye bread with salami and butter, that was the best thing about it for me back then,” he remembers. But 25 years ago, when randomly passing a gallery, there was a piece in the window that caught his attention. Sold – is the the best description of his first real encounter with art, which has since grown from passion to full-time employment with the gallery Sunday-S, which he opened in September 2016. From the location at Amaliegade in inner Copenhagen, Ibsen exhibits young international artists in a minimalistic space – a style the gallerist has made his signature.
How did your interest in art begin?
It was quite random actually. I haven’t grown up with parents who bought art and I’ve always found it very annoying having to go to museums. But when I was in my 20s, I was driving down Bredgade, and there was this artwork hanging in a gallery that I just had to see. So I pulled the car over, and went in to look at it, but it was sold. Instead I found the artist and visited him in his studio. It was really fascinating so that became my introduction to the art world. I visited the same artist multiple times and bought small pieces from him on instalment basis, and then it grew from there.
Then you started collecting from there?
At first, I primarily collected Danish art and the more crazy, fun and colorful, the better. Then after ten years I stopped to think about what I was doing. My collection didn’t make any sense. It was really messy and completely without purpose, so I actually sold all of my collection and started anew. It was particularly one piece that made me change my whole collection. A black piece made with cassette tapes. I found it very annoying but ended up buying it anyway. Since then I’ve tried to get rid of everything that causes a mess, confusion and stress. I decided I would only collect young international artists. It should be monochrome, abstract and minimalistic. And it shouldn’t be painted with traditional remedies. The history behind the work became much more important to me. Processes and ideas are often hidden stories behind artwork, and I think the 80% you aren’t given visually are a big part of a piece, too. I also decided I wanted only a few different artists in my collection but then various works from each over the years to have a common thread going through it. And in searching for that, I discovered many young international artists that were unknown to most people. I began interviewing them and started my blog Copenhagen Contemporary. Then people started asking me for help buying art abroad. I initially did it as a hobby, but five years ago I sold my company and opened a gallery.
Why did you decide to primarily collect from international artists?
I think the processes and choice of material they have are interesting. It’s more exciting looking across the border. I have a sense that everyone in Denmark buys the same as everyone else. They wear the same, live the same way, have the same furniture and collect the same art. Neighbor-art, it’s called. I got tired of that. I did it myself the first ten years, so it was about finding something interesting besides what you already saw here. International art was a better fit for me.
How does your work day typically look?
I’m quite driven by routines. I take my daughter to school and then I do yoga. Yoga is brilliant. It creates peace, and really does something to you. So I always plan my meetings for after I have had my morning yoga. In the art business nothing happens until around 11 anyway so I don’t have a specific time where I have to be in the office. All my artists and collectors are abroad so my time zones are all over the place. I don’t feel like I’m going to work. The days are never the same. There are also days where nothing happens. The art business only wakes up from Thursday to Saturday so I spend a lot of time speaking to artists and collectors. Otherwise I spend time exploring new artists and keeping myself updated on the international market.
What’s the process when you’re selling art?
I place it more than I sell it. I often tell people no, if the artwork doesn’t fit their collection. I think I say no around 50-60% of the time.
So you match artwork and buyer?
I believe you should. You’re handling the artist’s interest, his career is being built up and that depends a lot on the collections his pieces hang in. I often ask people what they have in their collection when they reach out, and if they don’t have a collection that matches a piece or the demand for a specific artist, then they won’t get the artwork. The artists have made an effort, and it gives an obligation, as a gallerist, but especially as a collector to make one too. It shouldn’t be easy to get a piece of artwork. I usually say: You shouldn’t buy the pieces you’re offered, you should buy the ones you are not.
Have you ever been refused a piece you wanted to buy?
Many times. The pieces you really want are always impossible to get. It also often happens that to begin with you can buy from a young artist, then his career takes off and you’re either cut-off on price or availability. Then my collection is no longer good enough for me to buy more pieces from that artist because they are placed in large international collections. There was one piece I wanted, which had a waiting list. You had to send both a CV and information regarding what you had in your collection, how long you had been collecting, how many pieces you had from that artist, had you ever sold anything on auction, had you ever sold anything by that artist, and did you promise to keep the piece for a minimum of five years. If you could sign for all that, then you were allowed to buy.
What’s important for you when creating your home?
There should be peaceful, clean lines and few things. I push myself to live with less. It creates a calmness when there is nothing to confuse you. It has a timelessness over it. I get stressed when there’s messy. I would rather wait a long time to find the right chair, instead of something that’s cool the next couple of years and then you have to change it. It doesn’t suit my style. Of course, it’s primarily the art that decides that’s how it will always be for me. I could live with a single chair but there has to be art.
What’s the most appreciated object in your home?
It's easy to say it’s the most expensive artwork I own but you can almost always re-acquire that. So I would say my daughter Ella’s artwork that she has made on our countless Sunday trips to Louisiana. She loves making objects in clay or drawings. She has a whole corner in the apartment with all her pieces. That is something I’ll keep for the rest of my life. It’s our thing to go to Louisiana together, and always with the same routine; first we see something, then we go to the workshop, then back to see some more, and lastly, we pick up what we’ve made.
Do you collect other things besides art?
I do but not purposely. If you buy things that last and are of high quality then you don’t throw them away. I have around 15-16 pairs of glasses. I have shopped at Poul Stig since 1997 and I still have all the glass, but it’s not because I collect them I just don’t throw them out or break them. It’s the same with watches. And I probably also have too many white sneakers, black jeans and T-shirts.
Do you have an everyday uniform?
I do. I simply don’t want to spend time in the morning figuring out what to wear. I have a lot of black jeans, they’re the same, six pairs of sneakers, all almost the same, then a ton of T-shirts, all black, and lots of glasses, they are almost all black as well. So it’s a lot of black and white, easy, not too much fluff, and then you can just stick your hand in the closet without looking and pull something out. It works. So I definitely have a uniform but not necessarily on purpose.